Archive for December, 2019

Fun with C#, Visual Basic, Thunkable and other stuff

December 19, 2019

I want to introduce my Intro to Programming students to Visual Studio and Visual Basic or C# to finish off the semester.  I just want to make a simple form and a simple bit of code for the buttons on the form. We just did the quadratic formula in Python and built a Thunkable app doing this so I might as well carry it over.  Since I have not used VB or written in C# in a few years (Unity C# does not count. The usage is very different.) I figured I better refresh. I whipped up the VB app pretty quickly using a couple of references.  Yippee. I did the same quadratic program in C#. I learned some very useful things. First, to get a form built in VB over to C# is very easy. It is a copy and paste. I thought it cannot be that easy. Yes it is.  Coding in C# vs VB is a bit more work, semi-colons, curly brackets and a few other issues, but the references I had were good for the needed examples. After coding the same app in both I am convinced that I will have the kids tinker in VB instead of C#.  VB is just simpler.

I had the kids build the quadratic app in Thunkable.  They all agree block coding is a real pain in the posterior.  I am happy I am not alone.

I had the Math 2 Honors kids do the quadratic in Small Basic then code up the Law of Cosines.  At least one student is now working on a Law of Sines program on his own. It is interesting how some kids are really attracted to coding and others are extremely ambivalent to the whole concept.

For next year I requested money for six new computers for my “lab” (my office).   I want to see if they will give me $6000 for some new i7 – i10 computers with real video cards. Presently I use Montana State hand-me-downs that are 5 – 10 years old or the occasional donation.  Right now the best computer in the school (a 5 year old i7) was donated by a telephone company here in town. The i5s I am mostly using, both towers and laptops, are being maxed out by my Unity class kids.  I also want to try Android Studio next school year and the built in emulator is a real pig. If I get the money (slim chance comes to mind) I am going to have my students build them from online parts as part of the class.  I can get better computers cheaper this way and the kids get to participate in the process. I will build six identical computers, I am not crazy enough to try different builds. I have a couple of kids that are in to speccing dream computers.  I figure I can tone them down a bit to get an affordable computer in the budget. We have not had a new computer for students to use in the school in 13 years. The state hand-me-downs have been more than enough for the average use and they fit our $0 tech budget nicely.

Rebuilding Programming 1 and 2 Courses

December 16, 2019

The teacher that taught our Computer Apps, Programming 1 and 2 courses moved on at the end of last year.  He found a job in a public school for twice the pay and a retirement plan that actually lets you retire after 20 years.  Our retirement plan is “teach until death”. This year we are not offering the two intro programming courses he taught because my day is full and his replacements (two part-time teachers) do not do programming.  Since programming/CS teachers are a bit scarce in Montana, as everywhere else, I may have to pick up the courses next year. What he taught fit his programming knowledge and comfort level: Scratch primarily and a little Small Basic at the end of Programming 1, and then more Small Basic and some Visual Basic for Programming 2.  The Programming 1 course is intended for kids who had never programmed before. It gets filled with a lot of kids just filling a graduation requirement or that have no place else to go that period so it is not a bunch of enthusiasts. Some suffer greatly having to think in the organized manner programming requires. Scratch works pretty good for these kids but being an old fart used to line code Scratch is a real pain for me.  I find it extremely limiting and requires a bit of a brain shift. Like I said, I am an old fart. But if I do not use Scratch where should I go?  

I am tempted by Thunkable for the Programming 1.  It does have some glitches but it is drag and drop and it has more longevity as a useful tool than Scratch.  It is also a bit more entertaining for the kids to build phone apps that they can show others. To paraphrase Field of Dreams “Make it interesting and they will come”.  For an intro course for “first and only” programmers this might be the way to go.

As for the Programming 2 I may just not worry about it until I see what I decide to do for the Programming 1.  Depending on who I get for Programming 1 can determine what I can do for 2.

I only have 4 months to figure this out.  I think I have the time.